Justin Verlander
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Justin Verlander reaches auspicious career milestone with 200th strikeout

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How good is Justin Verlander? So good that, after expending 29 pitches through the first two innings of Sunday’s series finale, he had racked up four strikeouts against the Mariners and pushed his 2019 total to 200 strikeouts. So good that, in fact, this is the ninth time he’s done so over the course of his 15-year career.

It’s been another sterling year for the 36-year-old All-Star. Prior to his most recent start, he boasted a league-leading 14-4 record in 23 starts with an AL-best 2.73 ERA, 1.7 BB/9, 11.6 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR across 151 2/3 innings. And Sunday’s accomplishment — one to which he tacked on another four strikeouts over four scoreless innings — follows an even more impressive performance by the Astros, as Aaron Sanchez, Will Harris, Joe Biagini, and Chris Devenski combined for a no-hitter against the Mariners on Saturday.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Verlander’s nine 200-strikeout seasons places him among some rare and talented company. He’s just the seventh pitcher in MLB history with such a record, joining the likes of Nolan Ryan (15), Randy Johnson (13), Roger Clemens (12), Tom Seaver (10), Pedro Martínez (9), and Bob Gibson (9). Behind Verlander, the only two active pitchers approaching his record are the Nationals’ Max Scherzer and Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, each with seven 200+ strikeout seasons under their belts.

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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